April 17, 2012

This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian – for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send your own comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

What is the local Brasilian’s view on the Increasing tourism industry in Brazil? e.g. like how it has affected them, what they think of it, has it benefited them etc.

— Kenny

First, of course, it’s excellent for the economy. Having tourists benefits a lot, and people in Brazil love it. There’s the money, the culture exchange, it’s all good. Not only having tourists, but people coming to live, work… and people from the US, Europe, you must know what that means. Yesterday was in the papers that Columbia University is having a base in Rio. Kenny, Columbia University is coming to Brazil!


Vanessa Agricola

Ahoy, or maybe just oi.

My girlfriend, who is from the state of São Paulo, does a funny gesture sometimes. If her mouth’s full and I’m telling a story etc, whenever I pause for her to affirm she’s still with me by nodding or saying yes she puts her free hand up and does what I can only describe as the “blah blah blah/chatter box” English gesture. Here hand is up, fingers and thumb facing forward, opening and closing her hand as if it were a mouth talking. She says this means “yes, yes, go on talking. I wonder if any other Brazilians use this.

— Jimbo

Hello, Jim,

I don’t see this gesture as Brazilian, but I’m not sure I understand. There is one “go on, keep talking” gesture, that is quite like what you describe, but not exactly, cos hands should move in a circle. Hard to write about gestures, isn’t it? Must be the same thing.

Thanks for coming,

Vanessa Agricola

Readers comments:

People here in São Paulo are extremely concerned about proper manners, as are people of many cultures. Perhaps a bit more here than in other places, but in any refined society I know of it is considered the height of rudeness to speak with a mouth full of food. His girlfriend is almost certainly simply trying to communicate to “Jimbo” that she is eating and therefore not about to respond until she has finished what is in her mouth.

Just as “Operaão Tapa Buraco” has not yet reached every street in São Paulo it appears that Emily Post’s Guide to Etiquette hasn’t spread all across the USA either or Jim would already have gotten his significant other’s message.

One needn’t look to far afield to see the numerous examples of manners exhibited by Brazilians. For example, most of them would not consider picking up something we in North America think of as “finger food” without using a napkin to do so. It is considered extremely rude to chew gum in the workplace. You are unlikely to ever see a Brazilian in a restaurant jump up out of his seat and shout to attract the attention of someone he knows that by chance enters the establishment. While entertaining clients in one’s home is not common for business persons in Brazil, in most cases the guest understands that it would be customary to bring a gift of wine or flowers for the host and hostess. Things like that are clear demonstrations of how really sophisticated they are here in São Paulo and many other major Brazilian cities.

Three cheers for Jim’s lady friend, she is a fine example of what São Paulo is all about.

— James

Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you’re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to gringoes@www.gringoes.com

Previous articles in this series:

Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Missed Dates
Ask a Brazilian: Couples and Separate Rooms
Ask a Brazilian: São Paulo Safety
Ask a Brazilian: Jealousy
Ask a Brazilian: Nails and Spanish
Ask a Brazilian: Tipping
Ask a Brazilian: UK Visa Issues
Ask a Brazilian: Gossip
Ask a Brazilian: Real Estate Scam
Ask a Brazilian: Lacking Change and I Touch Myself
Ask a Brazilian: Tampons
Ask a Brazilian: A Brazilian CV
Ask a Brazilian: Gender Stereotypes
Ask a Brazilian: Answering a Question
Ask a Brazilian: Revoked Visa
Ask a Brazilian: Pedestrian Problems
Ask a Brazilian: Trash
Ask a Brazilian: Tiles
Ask a Brazilian: Headlights
Ask a Brazilian: Differences and Love
Ask a Brazilian: What Do the Police Do?
Ask a Brazilian: Contractor Frustrations
Ask a Brazilian: English Books and Brazilian Boys
Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
Ask a Brazilian: Screens
Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

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